Name: Greg Slater
Current Job: Administrator, Maryland State Highway Administration
OK, before we start talking about work, can you tell me about your commute? How long does it take you to arrive at MDOT HQ and what are your modes of transportation?
This depends on where I am going, my schedule and my time of year. Leading a department responsible for a diverse set of travelers all across the state has me out and about quite a bit. My actual office is where I am the least. I live north of Baltimore City. If I am headed to Baltimore or the central region, I will mainly drive. My travel is heavy interstate. If I’m headed to Baltimore City for any reason or simply to my office, I drive or take my bike. If the weather is nice and my calendar works with it, it’s a nice 20-25 mile ride in the morning. Baltimore has great bike infrastructure and I enjoy getting the heart pumping in the morning. At times the ride home after a long day is tough, but I can jump on the Light Rail for a good portion if I need to or the weather shifts. If I travel to DC, I almost always take the MARC train and Metro, this allows me to get some work done and avoid the unpredictable DC region traffic.
You’ve been the SHA administrator for a little over a year. In previous roles with MDOT, you were directly involved in specific projects on the planning an engineering side. Do you still have the chance to get your “hands dirty” on projects? In what ways have your responsibilities changed?
I do and really enjoy that part of the job. My passion is working with people out in the community and in the organization, they can give you a real sense of things you don’t see in models. Along with that, I love getting into the problem we are trying to solve (safety, congestion, asset condition), and working to develop real innovative and creative solutions. I believe this is what it takes in today’s transportation world - new solutions and new thinking. I have always been a creative long-range thinker that was passionate about what the data was telling us. I still love that and always will. Instead of implementing, today I more work with the team to develop the ideas and strategy, then allow the teams to flesh out the details. I tend to be a destination focused leader, there are many ways to get there and it’s important for our teams to be creative too. That being said, when I have a detailed idea or vision, I make sure that is on the table with the others. I love seeing an innovative solution implemented and helping Marylanders.
Express Lanes Coming to Maryland?
We know that the state is moving quickly on a $9 billion traffic relief plan. How soon could we see Express Toll Lanes on the Capital Beltway and I-270?
This really depends on NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) and its outcome. The important thing here is not the detail, but providing congestion relief to Marylanders as quickly as possible with the least amount of disruption to their lives. In this project, we are moving fast, but also thinking very differently than others in the past. In many ways, our goal is to not only provide that quick relief and real travel choices, but we also want to redefine how these projects are delivered worldwide by harnessing innovation, collectively and collaboratively.
What was your biggest takeaway from the Scoping Open Houses in April, and what have you learned from the public workshops in July?
That our customers are really frustrated with congestion and engaged in helping us develop solutions. This really gives our process value and helps ensure real success.
When do you expect an RFP to be released? How many companies do you expect will respond?
This also depends on NEPA, but we are looking for something as soon as we are able. We want to get that creative process started, but still have some important steps in getting there, including continued collaboration with communities and our delegation.
Based on your knowledge of the industry, how many companies have the ability to pull off a project of this size?
That’s tough to say. If done as one massive effort, likely not many, but we will see what the market bears when we make that determination. We have some super smart people working as a team and advisors from all sectors. The size and number of efforts will be the one that has the greatest value for Maryland taxpayers and can generate the most innovative solutions.
Tell me why this traffic relief plan might not happen. What stands in the way of it all getting done?
That’s not in my vocabulary. I didn’t get here thinking about what we can’t do. The whole team is focused on what we can do so congestion relief Is coming.
Didn’t MARYPIRG Call It a Boondoggle?
Recently, MARYPIRG labeled this project one of the largest transportation boondoggles in America. Tell us why it’s not.
There are some inaccuracies in that report, but we are still in the NEPA stage looking for the best solution with a range of 15 alternatives.
What is your response to criticism that the state is too focused on highways and roads and not enough on public transit and non-vehicular modes of transportation?
My response is that we need both. We need all of it and unfortunately to deliver all of it, we have to do that in separate efforts. We have an important transit line under construction in the Purple Line, we have redesigned the Baltimore bus network and we are delivering highway projects all over the state. Our citizens need choices for mobility, diverse choices that serve the diverse needs of Marylanders. Their mobility, the mobility of our commerce and freight is too important. My focus is on them and giving them that choice in safe solutions that are a value to Maryland citizens.
Report Card for Maryland Highways
How are we doing maintaining the highways and other infrastructure we have? Great progress. We have improved half of the system lane miles over the past several years and we have a bridge program that is second to none. Our growth areas are in some of the other assets that are aging like our lighting systems, updating our signals and making sure we have enough invested in routine maintenance to have a system Marylanders can be proud of. Would the state benefit from an injection of money for infrastructure improvements? Of course, if that came we would deliver. Right now and always we must get the most out of what we have available. If more was entrusted to us, we would still have that focus and would deliver more. What is the biggest need in this area? Outside of financial needs, we need talent, we need more people willing to redefine how government delivers. People who are looking to really make a difference in people lives, people who care about Maryland and its citizens. If you know any hard-working, innovative, customer-focused transportation professionals, send them my way. We have a place for them to grow, thrive and deliver.
What are some of the recent road projects (or ones in the works) that will have a significant positive impact on travel times and the ability for people to move around the region?
- Baltimore Beltway
- 270 ICM
- 219 (Freight)
- Md 404
- Md 5 At Brandywine
- Md 4 Suitland
- US 1 College Park